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Bonefish off Starboard Bow

Afternoon Bonefish

It isn’t often I get bow time on my skiff but a quick afternoon trip with my buddy Jason was exactly what I needed to scratch that itch. It started out like any successful afternoon does, light winds, sun, cigars, and a little bourbon in hopes of a celebration cocktail. We started off with a long run with a plan to work our way home on a few different flats. The feeling of having everything to yourself is hard to put into words.

Our first stop we were into fish almost immediately. To say they were uncooperative is an understatement. Fish came and went for the first hour with no connections, so we needed a change.

We didn’t have to go far and were back in the fish. This stretch offered two shots, one at a quick moving permit and another shot at a pair of bonefish. Surprisingly the permit seemed to cooperate more than the bonefish but he just wouldn’t commit. Sometimes you get lucky with a bonefish and other time the permit are well, permit.

Bonefish Reward

Stop number three started slow but we were rewarded with persistence as it just felt right. I thought about moving two separate times over the course of 30 minutes but something told me to stay. I must admit it might be a case of being lucky rather than good but either way, I will take it. A pair of bonefish creeped in from my off-hand side and since we had good vison the way we were facing, I opted for a backhand presentation rather than spinning the boat. I was a little short but since the fish were coming right to me they were on it as soon as it entered their field of vision. One hop and the lead fish pinned the fly and I came tight. It was an impressive first run for the fish of this size. I like a bonefish with a little attitude. After a little back and forth, the fish came to hand. Quick photo and off she swam.

Bonefish No. 2

I had barely enough time to get back on the platform and line stripped out before Jason called out a group of fish. This small group was crossing from right to left and appeared happy. They were meticulously picking their way across the flat and my fly was exactly what they ordered. Two fish broke from the group, tracked the fly for maybe five feet before pinning my shrimp imitation. I was tight and on cloud nine. Jason landed the fish, I unhooked her and grabbed a quick photo right before she swam away.

After seeing a good number of fish and bringing two boat side it was time for a little nip of bourbon, light the stogies and take it all in before breaking for home. Cheers to a successful afternoon of bonefish in Biscayne Bay.

Thankful for a little bow time and cooperative bonefish. Just what I needed before a few upcoming trips.

From The Endless Flat,
Capt. Chris

Easy Sunday on Mosquito Lagoon

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish on Fly

The last couple weeks prior to the 4th of July were busy. Between filming for work and runs to Miami chasing bonefish and permit, hectic was the word of the month. Typically, the day after a Miami run is more of a lay-day. Although, with the weather being right the wife and I took advantage to make a few relaxing, afternoon trips to Mosquito Lagoon.

As long as the weather holds Saturday and Sunday afternoons are wonderful times to be out on Mosquito Lagoon. Usually, most everyone has headed home and the crowds have greatly diminished. It can feel like you have the entire place to yourself.

The wife, bird dog and I set out that afternoon to look at some new water. She just wanted to relax so I brought the fly rod and the stripping bucket to try and stick one from the poling platform. It is always a song and dance getting one to eat from up high, but very rewarding when it all comes together.

The first stop we found water that was off-color due to being exposed to the wind from that day. I was really just poling that shoreline to reach a pocket I had fished before in similar conditions. The water was up a little and this area was protected from the wind so I had my fingers crossed.

Redfish Eat

The first fish caught me a little off guard as he was on the corner at the entrance and I was just out of position. It happens. The next shot was exactly what I had hoped for. Bank crawling, back out of the water and jumped all over a well placed fly. As the wife relaxed on the bow she got a cool shot of the fish eating and coming tight. Well done babe.

Redfish Eat!

Redfish Eat!

A quick photo and another beautiful mosquito lagoon redfish was safely on her way.

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

As the wind began to shift a little we decided to make one more stop before calling it a day. This water was a bit cleaner but it took a little bit before we started to see fish. I’m pissed. This area had it all, except fish. Finally as we came to the end of the stretch I bumped a fish off the bow. Although can be maddening I have to laugh it off and be glad the Chittum can get that close to fish without spooking them.

As I set up for what felt like the last shot of the day, it was a left to right, on the shoreline. Perfect, except I was a little long and decided to take the chance of the fish swimming under the leader that was on a mangrove root. As I held my breath and the line came tight, lifting the line off the water, the fish calmly carried on. I was shocked. That never happens. I just knew I had buried the hook in the root but a quick flick of the rod tip set it free.

I knew this would be my last shot at that fish. Just before I made my cast, I saw another fish coming right at me. This was going to be an exact replica of the previous shot. Thankfully, I landed it short of the mangrove root and with a slight move of the fly, the fish was on. Two short runs and a few clicks of the drag and she was boat-side. Beautiful fish and beautiful afternoon.

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish on Fly

Moral of the scene…never panic. The more frustrated or panicked you get on the bow, the more will go wrong. It is just one of those hard lessons in fly fishing.

As I throttled up and headed for home, I just can’t help to take it all in and be thankful for a wonderful afternoon with the wife and dog. Fly fishing is a beautiful thing.

From The Endless Flat,
Capt. Chris

Biscayne Bay Bonefish

Biscayne Bay Bonefish

My love for Emerald waters on tropical flats has been well documented and honestly, if I could fish for one species the rest of my life, it would be bonefish.

The way they track across a flat, their shear speed and fighting ability can send anyone’s heart racing. Plus, bonefish don’t live in ugly places.

I make the drive as often as I can, when the wind, weather and tides create an opportunity to fish Miami or the Northern Florida Keys. It is a long drive, a grueling day really, but when we succeed, it is the highest of highs. The only downside is those water and the fish that live there can dish out heaping spoonfuls of humble pie.

This trip I was accompanied by the wife and birddog for a little mid-week getaway to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. My good friend Johan offered to push and we all loaded up in his Chittum Skiff so I did not have to tow mine.

Biscayne Bay Sunrise

It was calling for full and calm winds, which is always more predictable on a Tuesday rather than a weekend. The weather did not disappoint but made for tougher bonefishing. For those that do not get to chase bonefish and permit often, full sun is important. In addition, calm winds make for easy casting but it can also create frustrating fishing and spooky fish.

Either way, I am just happy we are here and stepping on the bow for a change.

As with any trip, we had a planned milk run. Taking into account the tides, sun angle and when we were going to break for margaritas and tacos. With the tide not quite high, we went scanning for permit. Which is really just like walking into a Victoria Secret afterparty and expecting to leave with one of the models. Moving on…

I had a great shot at a fish in the 25lb range and got the typical follow, hard look and escape. Honestly, I need to take some of the blame on that fish, I zigged when she zagged and got the yips as I was stripping. She knew something was up and was gone.

As we continue, a small group of bonefish approached from my weak side, I dropped a short backhand not thinking much of it. As luck would have it, one of them broke from the group and jumped on the crab fly. A short fight and quick release and he was back in the pack. “That is why you never pass on a shot”, Johan said. I agree. Even if you are targeting permit and only permit, sometimes a small eager bonefish can breakthrough the haze and boost morale.

The wind continues to die down… It is not making it easy today. With the changing of the tide we decide to move to another flat. Unfortunately, within 20 minutes of our arrival we get a visit from a qualified captain. He is running what appears to be a 25′ walk-around with twin 300’s and apparently no mapping software. The captain comes in hot, skids to a halt and I am guessing call Sea-Tow.

We leave.

A quick, unanimous vote and we decide it is lunch time. We stake out at Boca Chita and break out all the fixins’ for tacos and Mel’s Famous Margaritas. The bird dog was excited to take a dip and cool off as well. Nothing like a half-hour happy hour to relax and reset before the afternoon push. Honestly, we don’t do that enough. Rarely, if ever do we stop and really take a break. I suppose because we drive so far and always want to maximize our opportunities it never really dawned on me a quick break can be what the day needs.

Biscayne Taco Bar

Our next move was a pretty good run from our lunch spot but no one was complaining. It is nice to have a little A/C before the next flat. The wind is almost gone and I know the mirror is not going to make this next flat easy. I went through and lengthened my leader and dropped down in tippet size to give me a little extra advantage. Also, the this flat being slightly shallower than what we had been fishing I was able to throw a lighter fly which also helps when making long casts and delicate presentations.

My first look was a group of three that were approaching from one o’clock. Not ideal, but we spotted them way out and Johan was able to quickly able to make the necessary adjustments. Took my shot and the fly settled as they approached. The lead fish was instantly interested but would not commit. I was running out of room just as the second fish pinned the fly and he was on. Although it was hot and calm this fish did not play around. As the fish took me into my backing a couple times, Johan said, “I think this is a better fish than we thought.”

Biscayne Bay Bonefish

After we scooped her up, we got in the water to put her in the sling. Just a hair over eight pounds. I’ll take it! After a long but beautiful day on Biscayne Bay, this was a high note to end on before the long ride home.

I think we are at the point that the Magic City Hustle can now be called, a Saturday. I love it.

From The Endless Flat,
Capt. Chris

Mosquito Lagoon Cold Front

Cold Front Seatrout and Redfish

Well, here we are, in one of those famous April cold fronts. The wind had most of the week shut down but low and behold we have a cold, clear, crips day and we are ready to rock.  We launched at Beacon 42 around mid-morning to allow all the boat ramp antics to take place before we arrived.  We made our way into one of our normal haunts and immediately started seeing fish. The water was crystal clean and although the fish were quite spooky, Jason got a small redfish to eat quickly. 

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

The traffic on the water was typical for a weekend day with beautiful weather.  This added pressure, coupled with the clear water never helps.  We were just going to have to slow down and use the clear skies to our advantage.  I decided to push out and adjust our approach, which proved to be the right move.  The angle of attack was not perfect, but we hid our shadows well and that was the difference. The first trout of the day was a beautiful fish. Not a giant but enough to wear the tag Gator.  

Mosquito Lagoon Gator trout

Mosquito Lagoon Gator Trout

As we proceeded across the flat we noticed that was was not alone.  Jason, called me off the platform to take a shot with the fly rod. He did not have to twist my arm. My bow session was a quick one. We spotted a large fish on the edge of a pothole. She was at 11 O’Clock, quartering away. That is my jam. Luckily, I kicked off the rust quickly and dropped the fly just beyond her reach. Two hops and she ate. Barely having to move a muscle…just the way they like it.  The colder water had her fired up quick when I came tight. She took me to the reel but not much further and I guided her into the net if fairly short order.  

Gator Trout on Fly

Mosquito Lagoon Gator Trout on Fly

That is all I needed. Foss is back up. 

We were contemplating a move but decided otherwise as we had a clear path with not another boat in sight. The flat and shoreline ahead was an area I had not fished in a while but with the clean water it was worth a look. It did take us a couple hundred yards before we began seeing fish but they were grouped nicely and eager to eat. This stretch was packed with smaller trout and Jason would go four and five casts in a row with a bite. 

We were approaching a series of pot holes so a quick platform switch and I had a small trout on my first cast.  A basic shrimp fly was all it took.  The trout were eating it to the point it was unraveling.  That was my queue to climb back up top and give the bow back to Foss. As luck would have it, his next shot was to a belly crawling redfish. We joked that was the shot I wanted and he made it count.  

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

We moved one last time as we finally were approaching another skiff. We gave way picked another stretch. The trout followed. It was almost comical the amount of small trout he was catching.  As the sun began to fade we decided to make the run back and be thankful for the day we had. “Wish they were all like this”, Foss said. 

Sunset Mosquito Lagoon

Mosquito Lagoon Sunset

From The Endless Flat,
Capt. Chris

 

The Season of Seatrout

For a number of months now the larger trout have been a blast. We have had tons of smaller trout in the area, more than I have seen in a while, eager to jump on a paddle tail or fly and it has been a welcome sight for a number of reasons. Ask anyone around and you will hear the same lack of redfish stories in the area. We do go in spurts but all in all, the redfishing has been down for January. We all know why but only some want to publicize the poor condition the lagoon is in.

I get it, most depend on it for their livelihood but I have been in the game of guiding, booking and hosting trips since 2007 and the number one rule is never lie to clients. It will bite you in the ass every time. I have seen it plenty of times from different outfitters and guides. They are incredibly shortsighted and feel they have to paint a glorious picture to get that client to book to then provide a poor experience. Guess what, they won’t be back. That was a one and done. I was always taught you want repeat clients. Do the right thing, work hard and you will have clients for many years to come.  You might even make lifelong friends in the process.

Speaking of the hard times on the Lagoon, thankfully we have a number of dedicated individuals who are fighting very hard to bring Mosquito Lagoon and many other parts of Florida back from the hard times. Check out Tailer Trash fly fishing podcast and their Dingy Derby coming April 4, 2020. It is to benefit the New Smyrna Beach Marine Discovery Center and Mosquito Lagoon. Check out the event: The 2nd Annual Dingy Derby and RSVP for the Pre-Party Thingy before the Dingy the Night before. Participate or Donate, it is a great time and a great cause that raised over $5,000 last year.

Let’s not be all doom and gloom. Mother Nature and her estuaries are very resilient and have been fighting man for many years. For the rough times Mosquito Lagoon has seen, we still see fish, have excellent days and make memories with friends and clients. So, if you are in the area, do not hesitate to reach out for a trip with myself or if I am unable to take you, I have a few fellow guides I am happy to reccommend.  They are not only super fishy but good people who will shoot you straight and provide a wonderful trip.

We were talking about Seatrout at some point, right? We had a few trips around the end of the holiday and the beginning of the new year that were stellar. Those larger Seatrout will begin to spawn in the Spring March – May and just like Largemouth Bass and other species, the pre-spawn feed it a blast.

Indian River Seatrout

Jason and I ventured out to a few areas we have seen larger fish during times and moon phases that usually have the trout active. Although we had some cloudy days which can make stalking these weary fish tough, we had a few short windows and were able to capitalize.

Mosquito Lagoon Seatrout

Foss who is typically armed with the trusty DOA Shirmp, was putting on a clinic.  We were stalking some larger ones, but blind casting into groups of the smaller fish, was almost too easy. I had enough watching the show and Foss was kind enough to give me some bow time. I pulled out the long rod and had a fly I grabbed from Flymen Fishing Co. and was rewarded quickly. There is just something about a big trout on the fly rod, it is a blast and hard to pass up the opportunity when presented.

Seatrout on Fly

Bonefish with Foss and Johan

Winter Bonefish

Before all this COVID-19 fun began, Foss and I were due to make a Miami run and the weather was lining up to be a solid day.  My good friend Johan, had a few open days and said “leave your boat at the house and just ride down and I will push”.  Did not have to twist my arm to get a little bow time.  Foss and I loaded up at 1am and we were southbound and down. 

It was a typical day for this early in the year, winds from the northeast  and plenty of sun. Thankfully there was a warming trend from a light cold snap so the fish were back to being happy. The excitement is palpable as we begin to see the guitar shaped Hard Rock hotel. Not far behind are the high rise building of downtown Miami. A quick phone call to Johan, “Hey boys, y’all are early!” he said. “Naa we are just ready”, I replied.  

We load up our stuff, catch a few of the boat ramp antics as we idle out before Johan puts her on plane. There is nothing like feeling those emerald waters beneath your feet as the warm South Florida sun hits your face. Love our Florida winters.  The run across was easy.  Just a slight roll and a tiny bit of chop. We were planning on hunting tailing fish early in the day and then move as the tide changed. 

Two is a crowd

Foss and I have spent countless hours on a skiff, panga, bass boat.  You name it, we have fished it. So although Johan was a little hesitant, he was impressed we could simultaneously fish on the bow. I took the high post on the casting platform as Foss hanged ten on the nose. 

My first shot at a large tailing fish was a no go. First cast was good but a little off the mark as I didn’t trust the wind.  A quick pickup and put back was right in the zone, “I don’t think he saw it”, Johan barked. I felt the same. The fish just never reacted, just kept on his way as he moved out of range. 

The next fish came in at our two o’clock.  Rather than spinning the boat, Foss took his shot with the spinning rod.  Good cast, two hops and the fish blows out. oh well. We stalked a few more fish over the course of the next hour or so and as we approached the edge we saw a small group of fish patrolling an old prop scar.  I passed the backhand shot to Foss and with a great cast he was hooked up.  Two strong runs and the fish was boatside, unhooked and on his way safely. 

Good time to move.  We made a short and an adjustment to the plan with the shifting winds. I was on point and had a nice shot at incoming fish. The fly lands, a fish shoots out of the group, pins the fly.  I come tight but only for a split second and he is gone. My follow up shot, went ignored. Shit.  No time to sulk.

Tailing Bonefish

A small pair are approaching just as the last group. It was an exactly replay of the last shot but once I was tight, he was mine. Certainly not the size we were looking for but just a little singing of the reel before a quick boat-side release and I was all good. 

Early Bonefish

After sticking a few fish we decided to go look at some new water we had been eyeing. It was a little bit of a run but no one seemed to care. We exchanged a little time on the poling platform just looking and getting a feel for the area. It is always nice to see how the water moves across the flat, the sun angle, bottom topography.  It all matters and something you have to see in person. 

We did start seeing some larger singles and once we got Foss in range it didn’t take long.  This was a little better fish and had the attitude of his big brother. Jason was pulling away at this point but no one is really keeping score.  

The last stop of the day gave me two shots at really big fish.  Admittedly, I botched the first one. Just misjudged it. We were nose to nose and as we were both closing in on one another.  The cast long and leadered him right down his back and the fly just past his tail. I wasn’t happy.  That was the big fish I wanted and blew it.

Thankfully I did get another chance but this one wasn’t to be either. It all lined up right, cast, angle, fly swung in and he just wasn’t having it.   As the sun was getting a little low we decided to make our way off and see if we could get one more shot.  As I mentioned earlier, Foss had been on, and this final shot was no different. Same shot, 2 o’clock moving to twelve…good cast. Great eat!  

As he was fighting the fish I call out a shark, he was a little ways out but knew something was up.  Thankfully, we were able to keep the boat in between the two and as Johan hustled to close the gap between us and the Bonefish, Foss added a little extra pressure that would either bring him in or break him off safely.  This is one of the reasons we carry a net. We got just close enough to net him before he decided to make another break for it which could’ve done him in.

We supported him in the net as we pushed off the flat to the point we could lower the motor and idle away. Once we moved to an area that was all clear Foss hopped out and got a quick photo before releasing him.  

Bonefish to end the day

Just another great day with even better friends. A long ride home but reminiscing about the day on the water guides us home safely. 

From The Endless Flat,
Capt. Chris

Knot on Call

Doctor Redfish

A few times a year I have the pleasure of pushing around a local physician who typically brings his nephew or a fellow colleague. He is a great guy to be around and a hell of an angler, so I always look forward to his trips.

Our day was to being down in the Mosquito Lagoon and fish the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. We were in that time of year where the temps are cooling a little, the water is dropping(should be) and the water cleans up. Well, with all the named storms that did fly-bys on Florida this year, we had water stacked in from late summer all the way into late fall.

Thankfully, is not the norm but when a very active hurricane season and a number of near misses it has been the card we were dealt. It is frustrating for me as well as a number of guides that depend on sight-fishing, mostly with fly rods, to put clients on fish. We could cut and soak bait or blind cast all day but for me, that is just not my game. I like the stalk and the visual aspect of fishing, or I would just assume not go and reschedule.

This morning was calm and although the water was up, I was prepared with stretches of clean water where redfish had been patrolling regularly. A short run and a flip of the coin to see who was to take the bow first, we had a redfish buzz the tower almost immediately, a good sign. We had to fight the sun a little for a short stretch but it was a necessary evil due to the nature of the location. Two good shots and one pulled hook was all she wrote for the first location. Time to move.

We made a short run to be greeted by porpoises feeding heavily at our next spot, guess they found the same school I did. Move again.

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

The next area requires a long pole through our infamous Pole and Troll zone. Reason I call it infamous is because a number of people feel it has a bad reputation and refuse to obey the rules, or they are ignorant or they subscribe to the ignorance is bliss idiom. I digress and need to stow this soapbox.

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

Anyway, we pole a long stretch to find clean water and immediately greeted by active fish. Two boats enter the same area but with head nods and slight waves we all pay equal respect and each boat lands nice fish from the area. It is a wonderful sight seeing everyone respect distance, the fish and all benefit. A quick photo and the redfish eases back to join the group. A few more shots to nervous redfish yield no takes so we push our way out.

So…Two Surgeons Step on the Bow

I continued my planned milk run but each location shows a boat(s) already posted up. I continue to check boxes and move on. It got to a point where the boats where on every shoreline and I was not about to force my way in to just find redfish that were pressured and run over all day. I defer to the Docs. “Yall want to make a long run that will have less boats and give solid shots?” They knew the answer and it always feels good to have clients that trust your judgement. The Tohatsu wound up and off we went. There was a heavy chop for most of the run but they did not notice. The 12 Degree Chittum Mangrove makes up for Mother Nature’s Attitude.

Mosquito Lagoon Trout

The long run pays off with a handful of solid trout in half a dozen casts. They are setup on the edges of the shadows.   All we need to do was present the feathers within striking distance and the trout were more than willing to play. This continued for more than a hundred yards.   Instead of trading the bow every fish it was every third fish, a good feeling for sure.

Indian River One Hander

The rest of the afternoon played itself out the same.  Trout were eager, a few black drum were shy and the snook were snobby. All and all, a blast with clients who have become good friends, the way it should be.

Indian River Trout

I am very lucky to still keep in touch with a number of clients and outfitters during my Trek Safaris days and hosted trips. That was the break that shot me down this path.  Thankfully I can still guide great people in beautiful locations.  That will never get old.

From The Endless Flat,
Capt. Chris

Still Waiting on Dorian and Catching Redfish

I rarely, rarely fish on holiday weekends due to crowds and lack of courtesy and all things that end up on the qualified captain… but this year was different. It was Labor day weekend but the State of Florida and The Bahamas had an incredibly powerful Hurricane Dorian bearing down on both of us. Typically the holiday weekends have my wife and I headed to see friends for golf and hanging by the pool but due to the impending storm those plans were cancelled. In hindsight, we would have had plenty of time to enjoy our weekend while Dorian crawled our way but since we decided to stay put and the weather looked good another trip was due for the lagoon. Two days before, I had Guffy and Dave on the skiff for an excellent day and although we were cutting it close with weather, Foss and I decided to give it a go… and glad we did.

We arrived at the ramp to be met with only one other boat, how refreshing. All Refuge ramps were closed due to storm prep so we had to launch at Riverbreeze although we were planning on running south. A launch at daylight was met with moderately brisk east winds but those were expected. We headed south and as always, very thankful I have the 12 degree Chittum as we were met with whitecaps in open water but those were eaten for breakfast.

Our first stop yielded three small fish in about six casts as we pushed for tighter cover. That area is known for smaller schooling fish but we had our hearts set on tailing fish or bank crawlers so we pushed tighter as the approaching storm brought extra water into Mosquito Lagoon.

Dirty water Redfish

Water clarity was off but some activity ahead kept our spirts high. I swapped Foss’s paddle tail color to a dark body and the chartreuse tail hoping to get their attention. The first group of fish pushing away from us were in a hurry so I got out from behind them and picked a better angle to cut them off. We pushed ahead, got Foss into range and his first cast into the group, has the Stradic singing. This fish had a much bigger ego than his size but I always appreciate the effort and a quick photo and release and I decided to move on as two boats were poling into the bay we were in.

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish Release

Now seeing the increased water level I had a spot in mind, although a little longer run than we had planned, we both think it would be worth it. I don’t have to tell y’all, it was.

Big Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

After the long run we had the place to ourselves and the fish were happy to see us. Finding some skinnier water and backing Redfish, Foss put it where it needed to be and was hookup to an absolute stud. I would rather see one big fish eat in skinny water than catch ten blind casting! Thankfully 99% of my clients feel the same way!

Two smaller fish to hand and it was time to head in and meet the wives for lunch. Another stellar half day on Mosquito Lagoon!

Pre-Dorian Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

With the impending Hurricane Dorian there were a number of days leading up to the predicted landfall that were going to be clear and low winds, the calm before the storm if you will.

One thing I always try to do is fish right before a front or named storm as the approaching weather always seems to have the fish in a very corporative mood. This trip was no different, I had Guffy and his friend Dave on the skiff as Guff set it up to give his best friend Dave plenty of bow time of what was setting up to be a good day.

Landing Redfish

The day started as many do, launching in the refuge, making a a quick run and quietly poling our shoreline of choice. Early it was flat calm and the noseeums were feeding, on us. One of the many reasons I fish in pants no matter this time of year, I like to stay out of the sun as much as possible and number two, bugs. Doesn’t happen often but when the noseeums are out, they are out. Needless to say, the cigars were out early in the morning to offer some relief!

Our first stop had a number of tailing fish and it is always exciting to see separate groups of fish that you can work independently of one another as you move across the flat. If the first group doesn’t want to play you have your next target already in sight.

The first pair of tailing fish seemed happy and calm as we approached and although Dave’s first cast was off the mark he made an excellent correction with a clean pickup and put-back (no false casts) that did the trick. Two bumps and the first fish of the morning was on!

A beautiful redfish that had Dave out on reel and Guffy on the Rising Net, the first redfish came aboard, quick photo and release and Guffy’s turn on the bow was next, but not before a few sips of celebratory Maker’s Mark between the boys.

About as quick as Guff can step up on the platform and get line off the reel a group of tails rise up about two cast lengths away. As we approach and stare them down we notice it is a mixed bag. Guff asks, “Those aren’t all redfish are they?” I respond with “Nope, Good eye. It seems the Reds are feeding off of the Stingrays.” We slide in and Guffy lets one go, bump bump and he comes tight! “Something doesn’t feel right” Guffy says, it looks to be just a slow pull going away from the pack. Good news is the fish have not spooked. I tell Guff to point his rod right at the fish and pull the fly. Two things, if you have the ray hooked in the mouth, we can get him to the boat and released quickly or break him off. The other option and what typically happens is you have foul hooked the ray and a straight pull can free the fly and you are ready to cast.

Big Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

Thankfully, the straight pull works and with very little pressure the fly comes right back at us. A quick inspection and all is good. Two quick false casts and Guff gets the fly back in on the Redfish Tails the line is immediately tight and this is a bigger Red than we expected to be in the group. The line clears easily and the fish is on the reel and almost out to the backing. As always Guffy is ear to ear smiling and loving his new Sage X in “Jaguars Teal” as he calls it. Dave nets the fish and a couple quick photos and a bruiser of a redfish slides away to fight another day.

Unfortunately, we got spotted by another skiff that just couldn’t resist letting us have the redfish we found to ourselves. If they needed to come in on us while we landed a fish, they must need to catch one worse than us so I just let them have it. We picked and move and thankfully met by a new group of fish, maybe it was karma but we would happily take it.

Dave was back up and took multiple shots into tailing fish that seemed to want nothing to do with his fly. On his third shot, slowly working the fly through the group we were all on pins and needles expecting an eat at any time. Nothing. I told Dave to give it one more shot and he strips the fly quickly twice to pick up and on the second strip, with the fly up on the surface, a redfish comes out of no where and eats! Thankfully it was a split second before Dave popped the fly into his backcast or it would have been a swing and a miss.

Dave Redfish

With time running out as we had to be in by lunch Guff put together a great two-minute drill on a group of redfish moving fairly quickly pushing bait and shrimp down the shoreline. We had to get on our horse and take the proper angle as they were moving away at a pretty good clip. If I had to guess we took 15-18 shots at these fish and they either ignored or snuck out quickly chasing shrimp. A few quick pushes to gain some ground and Guff lead them a little more and that is all it took. Just needed it in their zone. As Guffy had that fish boatside I couldn’t help but think all that ground we covered and as quickly as we covered it was all due to the Chittum Mangrove 18. Not only is she quiet but being able to chase and gain ground on active, quick moving, feeding fish, is second to none!

Mosquito Lagoon Redfish

Another great Pre-Storm day on the water. Going to hit it again tomorrow as Dorian has slowed down and increased our window. Pray for those in the path.

Brothers and Redfish

As the summer dragged on we had been fairly lucky to not have any named storms knock on our door plus the afternoon storms had been fairly light. What does that mean? Our water levels in the Lagoon have been lower and the lack of rain also helps keep the algae bloom at bay when really affects the water quality.
I received a call from a younger guy who had moved out west for his time in the military and he was taking a week off to come home to Florida and spend time with family and needed to catch his first redfish on fly. He had not seen his brother in some time and wanted to spend time on the water with him as well.

Side note, he got into fly fishing after moving out west and also a shop rat at Fish West, one of the leading fly shops both online and brick and mortar. The coolest part about that is I had no idea until we got to talking while fishing. The reason I think that is cool is he never bragged or beat his chest about working at a fly shop or acting like he knows everything because he works in a shop. Sadly, this goes both ways all too often, and I feel their pain. I managed an Orvis shop a number of years ago while guiding and hosting trips and trust me, people who work in fly shops do not NEED to hear you are a guide. You can travel to new water, shop local, ask questions and there is no need to start the conversation with you are a guide. As with many things, it is not what you say but how you say it…

*Climbs down off Soapbox*

Once he got home he sent me a few note on a blog post he was putting together for the Fish West Website that I will quote in here as I think his writing deserves to be noted as you can feel his excitement and it was my pleasure to have him and his brother on the skiff….”The excitement was palpable, I was finally able to go home to Florida with a fly rod in hand. This was a big deal to me; the guys at Fiswest heard about it for two months. I knew that I would need to be guided to learn the areas for my self-sustained trips; this is when the research started.”

Nathan was the ideal client, we spoke on the phone a number of times, both knew what to expect and I appreciate him staying in touch, asking question and most off all practicing…. “I called him to introduce myself and explain my skill level and intentions. He was more than excited to get out me out on the lagoon and to school me up on fly fishing in the salt. He gave me drills and expectations for my casting distance as well as handling the wind we may encounter. Your guide is most importantly your teacher. Make them aware of what you need to learn.”

Pete’s Redfish

Upon him climbing up on the platform you could see his smile and feel his excitement. The redfish were ready to play, “We saw our first tailing Redfish fifteen minutes into the day and we were on. My first cast of the day went right to him. Unfortunately it wasn’t the fly, it was my line.” I think he got a little buck fever as two healthy groups of tailing redfish right off the bow almost immediately will get anyones heart pumping!

As the morning went on the redfish were a little snobby and I feel it was wearing on the guys a little. Nathan’s brother had made a nice pitch to a bank crawling redfish and that fish jumped all over his jig! It was exactly what we needed. Sometime a quick break is all you need. We had been poling a small bay that was loaded with fish but we were unable to connect and I could feel the wind come out of his sails… “We stopped and sat while I had a beer or two. We talked about our shared love of trout and rap music. My mind was back in the game. The pressure to catch fish is a trap that most of us will fall into if it is a new species or a new body of water. Remember that slow is smooth and smooth is fast. If your cast is bad it doesn’t matter how fast you get the fly out, you won’t catch what you’re after.

Beers for the Boys

Sometimes a couple beers and a few laughs out on the water with your brother is all you need to get back into the game. It worked. His brother grabbed a bank crawling redfish, high fives all around then Nathan hopped back up and you could feel the momentum shift as not 5 minutes later we pushed around a corner and… “we saw them. There was my chance. We had about five tailing Reds without a care in the world besides the food in front of them. Chris turned the boat, I took a breath, and the fly was off. Turning my mind off made it all come easy. My cast was precise, my leading was the best it had been, and I got my eat! Excitement filled the boat and my heart was racing a mile a minute. I set the fly, raised my rod tip, and began stripping. Just because the fish is bigger than you are used to, you don’t have to bring it to the reel. Many fish are lost because people want to watch that reel spin. The fish will let you know when it is time to go to the reel. It was a great feeling to have Chris cheering me on as he knew this was the biggest moment of my fishing career and a top 10 moment of my life.”

Nathan’s First Redfish

For me, there is nothing like watching someone stick their first redfish, whether it is 15 minutes into the day or late in the 4th quarter, it is very rewarding and exactly why I do this. In his blog I feel like he expressed a few good points in hidesight and want to leave you with one final quote from his Blog Post… “These last few things are what I figured out for myself. I believe that if you walk away without a few pages of notes you have wasted the day. Do not argue about your approach and do not discredit them because you think you know better. There is a reason they are guiding, and there is a reason you booked them. LISTEN! Remember that they are also on the boat. Chris pushed the skiff for eight hours, imagine how you would feel if someone only talked to you when a fish popped up. Don’t “include” them in your conversation, have a conversation with them. Be a human being, don’t drink too much, keep the fish wet, and enjoy yourself.

I had a blast with the Brothers and look forward to many more redfish with them!